River Teeth Journal Issue 17.2
|Table of Contents||Headwaters|
It’s been a busy season here at River Teeth, what with selecting Rosemary McGuire’s Out West: A Season on Water as the new River Teeth Literary Nonfiction Prize winner from among nearly two hundred book-length entries. Then, too, we have just put our seventeenth year of the journal to bed with the final selections to issue 17.2. Each year, we receive some 2,500 submissions to the journal and another two hundred or so full-length book submissions.
We often are asked how we manage to choose from so many submissions from so many fine writers. In an effort to answer that question both for ourselves and our readers, the two founding editors of River Teeth chewed over the topic in a dialogue presented here in slightly edited form...
She’d torn up everything around her—the brush, the bark on the trees, the ground itself. Everything was burning with ruin, and so the whole site glowed, as if consumed in pale gray flames. She glowed too. A ghost on fire.
Our neighbor has been renovating her condo for almost a year. Just cosmetic changes, she said, but the place has been gutted, the hundred-year-old chair rails and trim are gone. Now there are all sorts of soft gray built-ins, floors stained fashionably dark, wallpaper, and so on. I know because we live next door and I poke my head in from time to time to fret over what the workmen are doing.
Whole Foods shoppers are easy targets, so busy choosing their imported wheat germ and organic kiwi that they forget about thieves. They are also wealthy, at least the ones who live in this town, where the median home value is a million dollars and the cars are typically high-end, like the Mercedes I park my Toyota next to. I’m a good sixty yards from the store’s entrance, far enough to complicate a getaway, I note, though by no means making it impossible. Security is light, and the odds of a passerby confronting a fleeing black man are slim.
|"If Woman Is Five"|
I went to the school cafeteria to collect my son from the YMCA after-school program. An older woman behind the desk asked me to wait while she checked through a pile of enrollment forms. Her fingers were gnarled at the joints and thickened at the fingertips, and the structure of the fingers had gone rigid and wavy. She flipped with some difficulty through the pages in the stack. My throat clogged with an impatience I tried to hide; I needed to get my son fed and dressed for soccer practice. Flip. Flip. I judged her as not too bright, maybe of a slow cognitive processing speed, as her finger-pads struggled to arch and flick from one corner to the next.
Within one second, I winced at myself, the natural corrective against one’s beastish nature. I saw myself linking intelligence to the working condition of fingers, maybe stemming from my own unconscious obsession with work and speed as a measure of one’s value, a cruel equation for myself and others.
I’m sitting on an overstuffed couch in the Mexican home of a big Alabaman named Chuck, drinking Dos Equis and watching college football via pirated satellite. My wife, Kate, is leaning against the kitchen counter, knitting a wool cap, smiling politely at Chuck’s friend, a Texan who calls himself The Mayor. His Honor—wearing a Hawaiian shirt and flip-flops, his hair gringo-in-Mexico long—could be Matthew McConaughey’s less handsome, less famous older brother.
"And Then We Are Leaving"
My wife behind the wheel even though she hates to drive, me in the passenger seat buying airline tickets on my iPhone, my beautiful, angry sixteen-year-old daughter crying softly in the back seat of the rental car, the Front Range mountains blurring past the window as we wind our way across I-25 from Colorado Springs to Denver.
Heather Gemmen Wilson
Ten years ago I wrote a memoir about being raped. “Rape takes too much,” I admitted in my book Startling Beauty, “but I, for one, have gained more than I have lost. I have been startled by beauty in places it doesn’t belong. I see it on the face of the man who keeps his vows to me, and fear releases its grip. I see it in the graceful dance of a child who was so unwanted, and hope revives its song.”
...You didn’t hear the rest of the story: I moved out of the neighborhood. My marriage failed. And my beloved daughter is a pain in the ass.
|“Dark Secrets of Mother Trees"|
Sometimes I wake deep inside of midnight, my mind grappling with how to mother sons who are no longer babies or boys, quickly transforming into men. I am unable, at times, to listen to the chemistry of my body that naturally knows what to do, reason and logic hampered by a dangerous human brain.
|"What the Whelk Shells Tell"|
|Skirting the tables at Les Deux Magots, the little tabloid vender issued a salacious trill and patted his stack of papers. He seemed to have the goods on “un triste scandaleuse!” but he might have been calling, “Caps for Sale!” by the looks of him. Slim and mustachioed, in a small green blazer and flat cap, its tongue-tip of brim shading his brow, he was flirting with café-sitters in Saint-Germain-des-Prés, urging them to swap a euro or two for a morsel of gossip, its probability as weightless and delicious as meringue. When no one nipped at the bait on our corner, he scampered across the street to have another go at it, and Anna and I finished our tea and headed out to find un tire-bouchon, a corkscrew.|
|"On the Edge of a Tragedy"|
The phone rings. It’s Mike. Goddamnit. Not now.
It’s September 20, 2010. I’m at the start of my new life in New Orleans, hungover and having a panic attack about this morning’s realization: the story I’ve been writing now for weeks is absolute trash.
Although my niece was the first to spot the smoke and set events in motion, when I tell the story, I never make it hers. We tell the stories we need to hear. Sometimes they grow to myth, and if any teacher ever told you that myth means not true, she was mistaken. Myths are the truest things we know, the shapes our lives are wrapped in.
So I always begin with “My nephew,” as if the story belonged only to him:
|"Creatures, Rifle, Red"|
There’s been a red-tailed hawk stalking the hens all week. It arrived over this January weekend, when the hens were out of their run and scratching under the pines. Then the dog noticed and barked, and the hawk, startled, veered away from its prey. Every day since, that creature (or perhaps another of its kind) has haunted the locust tree near the henhouse; it watches for hours the fat, fluffy biddies as they cluck and scratch in their locked enclosure.